For Chris Britton, taking the helm at Springfield is a culmination of more than a decade of hard work and persistence.
Last week, Britton was named head coach of the Cougars nearly two months after Tom Kline stepped down following three successful seasons on Leamy Avenue.
Britton bleeds Cougar blue and gold. He was a center/linebacker at the school in the early '90s, and years later joined Mike Heath's staff from 2002-04. He stayed loyal to Springfield as a member of the Chris Bell (2005-07), Dan Ellis (2008-10) and Kline (2011-13) regimes.
Finally, Britton is in charge of a high school football program. And Springfield is where he always envisioned it happening.
"I went to Springfield and played here, so this is where I always wanted to be. Most guys want to go back to their alma mater and it would be the dream job to be the head coach of your alma mater,' Britton said. "That's how I see it. So, yes, this is where I've always wanted to be. I think I had an interview my first year with my (superintendent) and I said to him that I wanted to get into coaching high school football.
"I was doing weight ball and coaching lacrosse in high school at the time, and I said that my heart has always been in high school football and I want to get going here. He mentioned how Springfield had some guys (coaching) over at Strath Haven and they were doing real well, but I stressed to him that I wanted to start here at Springfield and never wanted to leave and never wanted to be anywhere else."
Britton isn't the only recent head coaching hire in Delco. Chester Upland School District approved the hiring of Tony Beaty, who was the boss at Prep Charter of the Philadelphia Public League from 2009-12. He controls a Chester team that posted a 2-8 record in 2013. Phone calls to school officials attempting to track down Beaty for comment were not returned.
Because Britton knows the players and is a Springfield lifer, the transition from defensive coordinator to head coach should be a relatively smooth one. After all, Springfield was a solid defensive team and returns a strong core of players in 2014, including both quarterbacks (sophomore Charlie Carbin and junior Brian Allen) and arguably the top linebacker in the Central League (All-Delco junior Adam Krauter).
"Even though we were going through the interview process... we started weightlifting in January before I got the job and we were having 40 or 50 kids here assuming that this is what's going to happen, that I'm going to get the job and we're going to keep working toward next season," Britton said. "If it didn't work out, that would be another thing. But ... all the coaches said they were staying because they believed in what we were doing."
Springfield posted a 6-5 record (5-4 Central League) and advanced to the District One Class AAA playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Britton intends to keep building on top of what Ellis started in 2008. Kline maintained the winning attitude that Ellis started, and Britton takes over facing similar high expectations.
"I'm not going to micromanage everything, because I hire coaches to coach and I trust them to coach and do what they do," Britton said. "Defensively we will keep it simple and play aggressive ... and offensively we want to be a little more aggressive with the way we do things. We want to be a little more physical than we have been. That's not a slap in the face to any other team in any other year, but we want to be physical. Football is not a finesse sport. My stamp would be that we definitely want to be more physical on the offensive side of the ball.
"It's not good changing coaches a lot, but you do see a variety of things. Not everything is good or bad. Dan had certain things that were good and Tom did some things that I would store away. It's almost like you build a bible of these different things the coaches before me have done."
Britton takes pride in the fact he has helped develop stud All-Delco linebackers Krauter, Mike Dougherty (Stetson) and Tyler Morrissey (West Chester).
"Being that I was the linebackers coach, I've had three in a row that were pretty good,' he said. "Those guys play with that toughness (he is looking for). We have guys on the roster that are ready to do that, but it's also what we need to bring on offense, that same mentality."
Under Britton's tutelage, Springfield will continue operating out of the spread formation on offense, which saw mixed results in 2013. The Cougars were limited to 14 or fewer points in six games last season, the worst of any District One playoff-qualifying team in Delco.
"The knock on the spread is you have trouble punching (the ball) into the end zone. That has to change," he said. "You're not going to score the ball moving it between the 20s — you have to finish and punch the ball in."
Though it's too early to predict how things will turn out in summer camp, and plans can certainly change, Britton hopes to have someone who can be the No. 1 guy for the duration of the season.
"We're probably going to have one guy win the job and take it. There's certain things I think that guy is going to need to have,' he said. "It doesn't matter who it is. Last year, we went that way with our QBs because that's what we had to. It wasn't necessarily the plan, but it's what we had to do. This year, there's going to be one guy behind there that's going to take the reps and take the job."